There aren’t many decisions in life bigger than immigrating to a new country. Marriage? Kids? Career change? All of those are big decisions but they can be done without shaking the tree too much. Moving abroad affects everything. Perhaps it was the recent presidential debate or perhaps it was the tax man knocking at your door, or maybe the back-of-the-napkin calculation just told you that you can’t make it on your social security check but for whatever reason, it’s time to go.
Here is why immigration to Nicaragua is an idea. It’s up for you to decide if it is a good idea or not.
While North America and Europe pass rules and regulations to keep their population safe, the sad fact is that people are losing their freedom because of it. From the small conveniences of riding in the back of trucks to big tax benefits of less business regulation, Nicaragua offers the western citizen the opportunity to trade safety for freedom.
Now don’t misunderstand me when I say that. Of course there is a lot to be said for safety. For example, there isn’t much giving up freedom for the safety of having a sidewalk without open storm drains or traffic cops that don’t ask for bribes. But if you want to buy a machete or a switchblade, you can. If you want to sell homemade cookies door to door in your neighborhood without worrying about the hassle of obtaining a health permit, you can. If you decide to walk right up to the edge of a smoking volcano and lean in to get a better look, nobody will stop you. Back where I come from none of that would be considered safe. For many people giving up safety for more freedom is a big reason to immigrate to Nicaragua.
Actually, you are still quite safe
Everybody has heard that “fact” stating that Nicaragua is safer than all the other countries in Central America. But where does that “fact” come from? Here are a few sources:
Nicaragua sports the lowest homicide rate in Central America in 2014 (insightcrime.org)
Safest in Central America, “comparable to Canada” (in espanol) (confidencial.com.ni)
The interesting thing is that these numbers don’t really apply to you and your safety. Most of these statistics are broad and, while they include crimes against foreigners, it isn’t exclusive. So the group of nine indigenous Moskitu who were gunned down by colonistas last month in Waspam are in those stats but you likely won’t be affected by that type of violence.
So what about crimes against foreigners or tourists? Well, let me know if you find any stats on that. In the meantime this is the best I could find. And it’s puts Nicaragua in a pretty good light compared to its neighbors (though, even Syria looks good compared to El Salvador and Honduras).
Taxi drivers, old ladies, old lady taxi drivers, nearly every local person in the street who has considered running for the border to make a better life abroad, most of these people would love to hear that you live in Nicaragua and they take pride in foreigners relishing in the great things the country offers. Many of them will ask you about life in Nicaragua once they realize that 1. you are a foreigner, and 2. you speak decent Spanish. Even if you don’t speak decent Spanish, know that Nicas like that you are here. After all, when there are so many Americans and Europeans who want to leave the big, successful land of opportunity to come to little, poor Nicaragua, what Nica wouldn’t be a little proud?
To give you an idea of how inexpensive things are, here is a quick example of how the economy affects the culture. Few people in the United States goes to McDonalds because they like the menu. The food is seen as cheap, unhealthy and frankly only tastes as good as the condiments they put on it. People eat at McDonalds because their kids want MickyD’s and the parents can tolerate it, or they are broke and/or don’t want to cook. In Nicaragua, only middle to upper-class people eat at McDonalds. And they eat there because they want to go somewhere nice for a change. People have MUCH cheaper options of where to eat but many choose McDs. But it isn’t the poor people eating Big Macs (most people order the chicken anyway).
Wow, so McDonalds is seen as a nicer dining establishment. That’s actually a good barometer to gauge how inexpensive the cost of living is in a country. A few other concrete examples: 3 bedroom/1 bath house with back yard, 6 blocks from the city center in Granada rents for between $250 – $300 per month. General labor costs between $3.50 – $7 a day in Managua depending on experience. Ten dollars spent on fruits and vegetables at the local market can feed one person for about four days. Twice weekly trash pickup costs about $.70/month. That’s seventy cents. And that is IF you get charged. An emergency room visit at the most expensive private hospital in Nicaragua costs $250. At the public hospital it is free.
Anything priced on the international market will usually be more expensive than what you would find back home, of course. This week gasoline in some places in the USA ducked under the $2/gallon mark. Here in Nicaragua gas prices still hover above $3. A pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses (actually made by Ray-Ban and not a cheap Chinese knockoff brand) for sale in the eyeglasses store will set you back $250 – $350. New consumer electronics will cost about 25% more that what you will find in North America, 40% more if it is made by Apple. But buy an apple at the market and pay less!
Medical care is improving
My first experience with the Nicaraguan healthcare system was getting my hand stitched up at a public hospital in Bluefields. The doc sat me down on a blood-stained bench and washed out the wound, spraying bloody saline solution all over the floor. The old, bent indigenous cleaning lady was right there with a mop, cleaning it up as he cleaned it out. My last experience with the Nicaraguan healthcare system was visiting a patient in the new military hospital in Managua. The $125 million investment offers 100% new, state of the art facilities in a 6-story building that has rooms sporting all the features you would expect from a western hospital.
Healthcare is improving. The Metropolitan Hospital has a top-notch burn center that is free for children. They also offer a growing list of procedures at a fraction of the cost of a North American hospital with many of their staff trained in Europe or the states. And they accept various international insurance coverage. Private clinics are abundant, offering outpatient procedures with little wait time and little strain on the pocketbook. And medications generally cost less than in the USA and a prescription is only needed for the strongest of the strong meds (think morphine-based drugs). Yes, you can self-diagnose online and buy those antibiotics at the corner pharmacy. Is that a good idea? Well, I suppose it depends on who’s buying what and why!
In closing it is of course up to you to decide if immigration to Nicaragua is right for you. There are a lot of other things to consider but I believe I have covered the main ones. Let me know in the comments what I could expand upon or any questions you may have.